Research Article

Undermining gender: women mineworkers at the rock face in a Zambian underground mine

Published in: Anthropology Southern Africa
Volume 43, issue 1, 2020 , pages: 32–42
DOI: 10.1080/23323256.2020.1736945
Author(s): James Musonda, Belgium


This article examines how women’s increased employment in the stereotypically masculine domain of large-scale underground mining affect gender stereotypes and cultural expectations in the Zambian Copperbelt. Based on three years of ethnographic research under and above the ground, it responds to three key questions: How are women working in mining coping with their male colleagues and the underground environment? How do women miners interact with their male partners at home? What does it tell us about broader gender dynamics in the Zambian mining sector? It also shows that women’s increased access to resources and valorised positions in mining has contributed to changing gender inequalities not only in mining but also in miners’ families. Men are no longer ashamed of having working wives as they were in the period from the 1950s to the 1970s. For these families, economic security is a more important determinant of a man’s or a woman’s position than gender difference.

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